Many people in Clinton and Sampson County have their favorite local restaurants and United Way officials have teamed up with a handful of them in hopes residents will choose one — maybe even two — at which they will “dine out” for a good cause.
The “Dine Out for United Way” event will be held on Thursday, Dec. 10, and executive director Nancy Carr said five restaurants will be participating by donating a portion of their proceeds from that day’s lunch and dinner sales to benefit the local organization that, in turn, benefits a dozen or more local service organizations each year.
While “Dine Out’ is not specifically an annual event, the United Way has held the event twice in recent years and is poised for its third “Dine Out” next month, featuring local partners Zeng’s Chinese Palace, Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano, Mi Finca, Ribeyes Steakhouse of Clinton and Oasis Oyster Bar & Grill.
“We’re just encouraging people of the community to go out and visit one of those restaurants and dine either for lunch and/or dinner on that day,” said Carr. “We tried to cover all the palates so hopefully we could appeal to everyone. It’s all day and they’re going to donate a portion of the proceeds to our campaign, so we are trying to get the word out to the community. “
The event will fall in what Carr and others hope proves to be a sweet spot during the holiday season, when people are past the busy cooking off Thanksgiving but still very much in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, family gatherings and other social events — and may be looking for a respite from baking, decorating and shopping.
“They may be shopping or running around having Christmas socials,” said Carr, “but if they can remember to eat out that Thursday that would be great. A lot of times after Thanksgiving and gearing up for the holidays, people are rushed and pressed for time, and they are going to eat out. We’re hoping that if they do they will choose to eat at one of those five fine dining establishments.”
The “Dine Out” event has operated a bit differently each of the previous two times it was held in Sampson, including one year when a different restaurant was featured every day of the week, but there was mixed feedback when those who wanted to support the cause were confused as to which day each was being showcased.
This year it is simple: on Thursday, Dec. 10, go to one of the participating restaurants and dine. That’s it.
“I think we’ve done really well,” Carr remarked of past events, noting she hoped for the best this year. “We need every penny we can get. Even more than that, it is visibility for United Way and deciding that ‘hey I like to go this restaurant anyway, I’m going to make sure I go Thursday night to support United Way.’ We’re always trying to educate the community on what we’re about and what we do here in our county.”
The group is also in the midst of its annual fundraising campaign, which will end on Dec. 31. That will be followed at the beginning of 2016 by the annual multi-step application and presentation process through which beneficiaries for those funds are selected.
Current United Way partners include the Boy Scouts of America-Tuscarora Council, Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, Clinton Area Foundation for Education, Delta Sigma Theta, Fitness Renaissance Program, Girl Scouts-North Carolina Coastal Plains, Sampson County Child Advocacy Center, Sampson County 4-H, Sampson County Fireman’s Association, Sampson County Friends of Education, Special Olympics-Sampson County and the Wheelchair Ramp Program.
For some of these agencies, United Way’s money is the only source of funding for their organization, which must be a non-profit. While it is a small part, “Dine In” is just another way the United Way reaches out to the community and makes its presence known.
Local businesses are aware of the importance of that too. Alfredo’s and Ribeyes have participated in all the “Dine Out” events, while Zeng’s and Oasis have each participated once before. Mi Finca, still relatively new to the area, is the sole newcomer. Carr said she is thankful for all the partnerships.
“Alfredo’s and Ribeyes have been wonderful supporters,” Carr stated. “They were also the two that supported our ‘Oustanding in Our Fields’ event. They are loyal supporters of United Way.”
Ribeyes owners Trey and Kristen Cummings said the support of United Way has deep roots in their family, with Trey’s mother serving as the director of the United Way in Kinston.
“It’s always been something we believe in because the tie in with his family,” said Kristen. “We know United Way supports the community and anything we can do to help the community we like to do.”
Carr believes others feel the same way, it is just about bringing awareness.
“The real key is letting people know,” said Carr. “‘Dine Out’ is not something new so, looking at what other United Ways do, they just pick one target date so we decided to do that too. Most people have a favorite restaurant where they like to go. If not, they can go to one for lunch and one for dinner. That’s what we’re hoping.”
Every penny, every dollar gets the United Way closer and closer to its 2015 campaign goal of $175,000. It officially kicked off its fundraising campaign last month having already amassed 40 percent of its goal. That has since doubled.
“We are at 80 percent with a little more than a month to go,” said Carr. “We are hoping to reach our goal. Things are going really well.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.